Issue #030 Published: 11-05-2020 // Written by: Gabrielle Fradin

For Sama, the gripping journey of a young family resisting in the last hospital of Eastern Aleppo

For Sama tells the story of Waad al-Kateab, a young Syrian journalist, resigned to stay in rebel-held Eastern Aleppo. Through Waad’s eyes – the documentary is a collection of clips she filmed over the years of the Battle of Aleppo, we discover the daily life of civilians in a city under siege by Russian-backed Assad forces.

Starting in 2011 at university, Waad first films what looked like a student uprising, calling for democracy and the fall of Assad’s regime. Then, we witness with her the decent of Aleppo into the abyss of an indiscriminate civil war. As violence increases, she finds herself filming in one of the last working hospitals of Eastern Aleppo. She documents the daily life of doctors, nurses and patients in the midst of constant attacks on civilians.

As she falls in love and marries the head doctor of the hospital, the documentary turns into an intimist portrait of a young couple starting a family in an ever-reducing Eastern Aleppo. We discover the enduring internal conflict posed by the birth of her daughter, Sama, as she finds herself torn between resisting for her democratic ideals and protecting her new-born child.

With the backdrop of the shocking and brutal reality of a civil war, we discover the family’s daily life rhythmed by Russian bombings, nurturing their daughter and death, tearing local families apart. Amongst the gruesome, heart-tearing scenes that made up their day-to-day life at the hospital, Waad manages to poetically capture moments of laughter, love and companionship that bonds residents and the resilient hospital staff together. Indeed, Waad skillfully manages to take us from scenes depicting extraordinary brutality, to light hearted, almost ordinary moments.

For Sama ends in 2016 as Waad and her family are forced to flee Aleppo. Nevertheless, the fight is still going on. Actually, if anything, this documentary is not a retrospective into Syrian-state war crimes, it is the depiction of a continuing reality for 4 million civilians (according to the Middle East Monitor) in Idlib, where Syrian and Russian forces are relentlessly bombing the last rebel stronghold in the whole of the country.

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